01-05-2017 2017 Miss & Mr. Coloma Jan. 7; News and Newsmakers of 2016 revisited

2017 MISS AND MR. COLOMA CONTESTANTS… pictured (from the left) are: Dustin Irerd, Brett Tutton, Zack Heater, Jenna Walter, Allison Beck, Harleigh Unger, Nikki Bryant, Camalin Normandin, Cassidy Fickett, Bailey Evans, Harrison Spaulding, Grant Kroshcel, and Jacob Sharpe. Not pictured is Hannah Strunk. The Coloma Community Or-ganization invites the public to the 2017 Miss and Mr. Coloma pageant on Saturday, January 7 at 6 p.m. at the Coloma High School. The theme is Bedazzle. Tickets purchased in advance are $20.00 each; please call Barb Stroder at 269-468-3731 or Doreen Hess at 269-468-4020. Tickets purchased at the door will be $25.00 each.

News and Newsmakers of 2016 revisited

By Angela Stair

 In these first weeks of the New Year it is an annual tradition of the Tri-City Record to recall the headline stories of the previous year.

 Following the News and Newsmakers feature, the Record will publish noteworthy stories and photos from the Press Box columns of 2016.

 Complete pages of each issue are archived at www.tricityrecord.com and on Facebook.


  White out conditions, once again wreak havoc on I-94 between Watervliet and Hartford.

I-94 or parking lot…Three multi-vehicle crashes on Sunday afternoon resulted in one fatality and several injuries.  Hartford Public School transported non-injured to Hartford Federated Church, American Red Cross provided assistance while troopers interviewed parties involved.

At approximately 2:00 p.m., Michigan State Police troopers from the Paw Paw Post, deputies from the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, and officers from the Hartford Police Department responded to several traffic crashes on eastbound I-94 just west of Hartford and westbound I-94 east of Hartford.

The initial minor injury crash involved eight passenger vehicles and one semi-truck on eastbound I-94.  Drivers directly behind the crash were able to stop safely and not collide or lose control.

As traffic began to backup, approximately 1/4 of a mile west of the initial crash, two semi-trucks collided.  With high speeds for conditions, drivers following too closely, and low visibility; 42 other vehicles crashed.

The second collision involved 38 passenger vehicles and six semi-trucks.  This crash resulted in one confirmed fatality and three patients with life threatening injuries.

An additional 11 people involved in the crash were transported to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, including one Van Buren County deputy who was struck by a passenger vehicle while he was rendering first-aid to a subject with a broken leg.

During the same time, a 12-vehicle minor injury crash occurred on the west bound side of I-94 approximately one mile east of Hartford.  This crash involved six passenger vehicles and six semi-trucks.

The Emergency Operations Center was activated shortly after the crashes occurred.  Multiple law enforcement agencies, wrecker services, and the Michigan Department of Transportation worked to open up I-94 at approximately 8:00 p.m.

Other headlines for January

  Harford City Commissioner calls Christmas decorations “crap”.  City of Hartford swears in incumbents for 2016.

  Lakeland celebrates first baby of the New Year.  Yan Qiu Yu of Benton Harbor is the proud mother of daughter, Vanni Li.

  The North Berrien Historical Museum to host 2nd annual History Trivia Night, January 14.

  Keeler Township updating fire equipment.

  Watervliet Fire Board sparks discussion with Bainbridge Township about joining the department.

  New clerk hired for Watervliet City under Shared Service agreement.

  Ashley Sipla crowned Miss Coloma; Hunter Browne crowned Mr. Coloma.

  Smith to run for re-election on Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

  Karlee Liles crowned 2016 Miss Watervliet; Derrick Davidson and Brody Roland named Co-Mr. Watervliet 2016.

  Double homicide suspect found in Colorado; Children safe.

  Coloma City Commission rescinds recently approved parking ordinances.

  $300,000 revised Watervliet County Park grant application submitted.

  Watervliet’s Aliea Chapin named Miss Spirit of Blossomtime 2016.

  Double homicide suspect fighting extradition from Colorado: Memorial service held for two Coloma victims.


 Landfill responds to Michigan House Bill 4783; increasing penalties for first and second violations.

Chris Phillips, public relations and compliance representative for Landfill Management Company, owner of the Orchard Hill Sanitary Landfill has his own opinion on Representative Al Pscholka’s recently sponsored legislation called House Bill 4783.

Approved by the House last week and now headed to the Senate, the bill increases penalties under Michigan’s waste management laws for first and second violations to $20,000 and $40,000 each day, up from $10,000 and $25,000 respectively.

Over the past year or so Pscholka has held some town hall meetings, whereby allowing the public to voice complaints about the odor coming from the landfill.  Landfill representatives have been present at those meetings and have worked with both Pscholka and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to address the odor issues.

Following the statement by Pscholka’s office regarding the approval of the House Bill, Phillips commented, “As Representative Pscholka knows, Orchard Hill Sanitary Landfill has an outstanding record of compliance with state waste management laws.  Since 2008, the Michigan DEQ has conducted 36 evaluations of the landfill and found it to be in compliance every time but one.”

Phillips continued, “It is disappointing his bill, House Bill 4783, proposes massive increases in fines on landfills that are striving to be good neighbors and provide a valuable service to their communities.  We remain committed to working with our neighbors and the DEQ to continually improve our operations.”

Firing back, Pscholka called their statement misleading and requested that corrections be made.  The statement from a Lansing based public relations firm claimed that Orchard Hill landfill had just one violation since 2008.  Representative Pscholka said this claim was erroneous.

“Pardon the pun, but this is absolute garbage,” said Representative Pscholka.  “The operators of the Orchard Hill landfill and their Lansing-based PR firm know that you don’t receive a fine after a single citation.  Orchard Hill received multiple citations which resulted in a settlement of $4,500.00.  That’s the record and it has been out in the media for over a year.  Let’s get the record corrected and deal with the facts.

“Further, hundreds of complaints have been filed with the DEQ over the last three years, hundreds.  Fancy words from PR firms who don’t live in Coloma and Watervliet don’t change the facts. This is simply an attempt to play politics with an important environmental issue.  Our environmental laws should be respected, modern, and this bill merely updates fines that are 29 years old.”

Orchard Hill Landfill stands by the statement of its public relations and compliance representative, Chris Phillips, “We are proud of our outstanding overall record of compliance with state waste management laws.”

Other headlines for February

  APL Logistics pullout leaves Hagar’s DiMaggio surprised and in shock: “This news is really very unfortunate”.

  Hartford teacher placed on paid administrative leave for alleged incident accusing the teacher of slapping a male 9th grade student in the face.

  Hartford City Manager Akinwale names Lt. Tressa Beltran Interim Chief of Police.

 2016 Miss Hartford is Ally Sinclair.

 Valentine’s Day evokes different but special memories for three local couples.

  Notorious east Hartford intersection claims victim after victim; 58 accidents in 10 years. (Intersection of Red Arrow Highway and County Road 681)

  Public invitation (comments for ambulance service) proves unsuccessful once again at Hartford City/Township.

  Watervliet School Board hears Phase II Bond Project Plan.

  Keeler Township receives bike path grant.

  Public invited to I&M solar facility open house February 23 at Watervliet Fire Station.

  Multiple meetings at Bainbridge Township regarding fire coverage.

  Viel gets 10-15 years in prison for his role in drug related death in Hagar Township.

  Hartford First Graders national contenders in Sumdog Math Competition.

  Marge and Pete Mannino celebrate another Valentine’s Day as Tri-City Record Valentine Letter winner.

  Coloma approves fire board budget with changes.

  Benton Harbor man charged with death of 8-month-old infant in Coloma.  In March mom arrested as accessory in baby’s death.

  Hartford Township takes lead in retaining Medic 1 Ambulance.

  Hartford schools & Pokagon Band partner to save native language.

  PK Development plans $1 million rehab for Hartford’s South Center Street Apartments.

  Two new furnaces on order for Watervliet Township.


 Fire chief replacement is topic of North Berrien Fire Rescue meeting to discuss issues with the public.  Consultant eyed to present proposals for future needs.

The leadership of Hagar Township, Coloma Charter Township, and the City of Coloma met on Monday, March 21 to inform the public about what is going on with the North Berrien Fire Department since the departure of its chief at the end of 2015.

Mayor Jim Polashak and Clerk Martha Darling represented the City of Coloma; Supervisor Ken Parrigin and Clerk Sandy Kraemer represented Coloma Charter Township; and Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio represented Hagar Township.

Other local leadership in attendance were Jim Fulton, Matt Moser, Lance Becht, and Bryan Duffield from Coloma Charter Township; Linda Freitag from the City of Coloma and Deb Kavanaugh and Andy Ulleg from Hagar Township.

Polashak led the meeting by stating that the purpose was to discuss the situation of the North Berrien Fire Department and so that everyone was hearing the same thing and when discussing it at the local levels could do so by comparing apples to apples.

The situation Polashak is referring to is regarding the absence of a fire chief.  Former Chief Bob Ruff said the North Berrien Fire Board ended their relationship December 31, 2015.

Since that time, two of the captains have been taking on extra responsibilities to handle the day-to-day operations of the department.  It did not take long for the questions to be asked regarding the department and the need – Do they need a full-time chief? – Could a part-time chief be enough?

Polashak, DiMaggio, and Parrigin determined through meetings, that they liked the idea of bringing in a consultant that could do a professional study.  They would hope through that study, the consultant could advise them on what the department needs are and what would be best for all the communities involved.

DiMaggio contacted the Michigan Township Association, the Michigan Municipal League, and Williams & Works for guidance in a consultant.  He said they got it down to three, but one firm really stood out, Lewis G. Bender and Jeffrey Swanson.

In their proposal it states that they will spend approximately two and a half days on site gathering data through interviews, observations, and ongoing research.  DiMaggio said they are expected to come at the beginning of May with the results coming at the beginning of June.

The cost of their study is $9.500.00 and covers travel, on-site and off-site time and the provision of four hard copies and an emailed copy of the final report.  Polashak said that the funding for the study will come from the three municipalities and not from the fire department budget.  DiMaggio said Hagar Township has approved funding their portion and Coloma Charter Township and the City of Coloma are expected to at their March meetings.

Other headlines for March

  Bainbridge paying more for fire protection than Coloma and Watervliet, Board told; operating own fire department is option.

  Former Watervliet Mayor Bob Flaherty (96) passed away last week.

 Coloma Schools to improve web access.

  Hartford schools hires contractor for bond work.

  Watervliet Township approves library millage request for August ballot.

  Coloma prepares for St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

  Hartford Commission calls to keep status quo on Medic 1 contract question.

  Coloma Township approves 3-year agreement with Police Chief Jason Roe.

  Primary Election is Tuesday; features fire & police millage renewals for Watervliet City. 

  Watervliet City voters renew Police and Fire Millages; Michigan chooses Trump and Sanders.

  Coloma Watervliet Area Chamber of Commerce water for Flint collection; clean water from the Tri-Cities.

  Solar Generation Facility coming to Watervliet.

  Representative Pscholka hosts Town Hall at North Berrien Senior Center.

  Medic 1 Ambulance slow in Hartford, Commissioner says.

  Watervliet High School named 2015 Academic State Champions; bids awarded for Phase II construction

  Mystery Bunny appears at Tri-City Area Easter Egg hunts.

  Coloma Commission split on hiring consultant for fire chief recommendations; in the end it was approved by a 3-2 vote.

  Watervliet July 4th celebration planning underway.

  Hartford woman stabbed and beaten in her apartment.

  Ashley Sipla of Coloma was crowned Miss Blossomtime 2016.

  All three young men from the community of Hartford made the Top 10 at the Mr. Blossomtime Contest.

  Watervliet manager seeks Commission direction on funding of skate park repairs and 4th of July celebration.

  Hagar Township will not contract additional police any time soon due to $627,000 cost.

  To the South Pole and back in 180 days.


  Bainbridge fire protection will not be from Watervliet or North Berrien; Township signs annual contracts with Sister Lakes and Benton Township.

For months the fire protection of Bainbridge Township has been a hot topic.  As the time to renew contracts approached for the Townships’ fiscal year ending March 31, the Township received a letter from the Watervliet Fire Board stating they wanted to re-negotiate their contract, with a substantial increase; what would amount to two mills.

Township Supervisor Jerry Jollay explained that Bainbridge Township has always been divided into four quadrants for fire protection. The southeast quadrant has been under the protection of the Sister Lakes Fire Department, the southwest under the protection of the Benton Township Fire Department.  The northeast and northwest quadrants under the protection of Watervliet Fire Department and/or North Berrien Fire Rescue over the years.

Minutes from all the special meetings that were held with Watervliet Fire Board showed that the negotiations went on for some time and Bainbridge felt they were getting nowhere.  They approached the North Berrien Fire Board about negotiating terms for them to cover part of the Township.

The Township was surprised to receive a quote from North Berrien similar to Watervliet Fire Department, requesting two mills as payment.  The Bainbridge board held another meeting on March 17 and decided to contact Keeler, Sister Lakes and Benton Township Fire Departments to see if they would be interested in discussing the taking over of additional or a portion of the Township now covered by Watervliet.

They also directed the Supervisor to prepare a letter to Watervliet Joint Fire Board denying their proposal dated March 2.  Keeler did not respond to the letter, but both Benton Township Fire Department and Sister Lakes Fire Department expressed their interest in the opportunity.

Another special meeting was held with Chief Dan Durham of the Benton Township Fire Department and Jim Scholz, President of the Sister Lakes Fire Department where agreements were worked out for Bainbridge coverage.

Supervisor Jollay said the contracts are for one year and will be paid at the equivalent of 1-mill.  There will be no billing to residents for a fire run.  In the meantime, the Planning Commission will continue looking for a more permanent solution to the fire coverage problem.

Other headlines for April

  Hagar Beach Café Opens.

  Watervliet City OKs funds for festival.

  Coloma adopts resolution to support Paw Paw River Trail.

  Coloma Public Library was started by Self Culture Club in 1904; A history of the Library.

  Many local elected officials facing term expiration; deadline for citizens to file for public office is April 19.  Local elected officials’ wages range from $45.00 per meeting to $20,500 annually.

  New downtown Watervliet plan includes public and commercial improvements; Open house to discuss Watervliet downtown development plan with citizens is Saturday, April 16, at the fire hall.

  Keeler Township meeting visited by candidates for election; Seniors want services back.

  Hartford City Council approves budget for fire station repairs; Van Buren County courts implement new technology solutions.

  Coloma Township sets standards and appointments for year; Police Chief reports 215 investigations in February; Supervisor says citizens’ group is planning Paw Paw River clean up.

  Radio personality killed by husband in murder-suicide; resigned fire chief investigated for embezzlement.

  Medic 1 working with the Fire Department to decrease accidents, Hartford Township board told; fire station renovations underway.

  Top 10 CHS seniors named; Ten students win highest scholastic honors in Senior Class at Coloma High School.

  Coloma schools improving programs and technology.

  Pokagon Band makes more than $81 million in additional economic investments in 2015.

  Watervliet Township Board approves ballot wording for upcoming millage renewals.